Monday, February 21, 2011

Ignorance is Bliss

While we were debriefing from the day, someone made the statement that "Ignorance is bliss" and they couldn't have been more right. If I hadn't seen the faces of the children, smelled what poverty smells like, or walked through sewage, I could be ignorant of the need.

Now that I have begun to take it all in, there's no denying the responsibility I have.

It was easy to forget about needs elsewhere, or to even forget to write my sponsored child before my eyes were opened.

I count it a privilege to be a voice for these children. They can't all get on a plane to come to your doorstep so you can see what poverty looks like. Even if I posted videos from everything we have seen, you still wouldn't completely understand. I thought I understood until I walked through the Mathare Valley slum on Saturday and visited the home of one of the sponsored children there. Ann walked us for at least 10 minutes through the slum to get to her house... and by house, I mean her mud hut. It was no bigger than 10x10 and the walls were made entirely of mud. While we walked through the streets, there was raw sewage flowing right where we were walking, and children were playing all in the area. The smell alone was almost too much to handle, but the sight was the hardest part.

I just had no idea.

Even after spending last summer with my friend Maureen (a Compassion Leadership Development Program graduate), I still didn't understand until I saw it for myself.


Our trip leader, Keith Bordeaux, took this picture as we walked to Ann's house.

This experience has been incredibly eye-opening to my role when it comes to taking care of those in need. A verse that the Lord continues to bring to mind says this:

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27 (ESV)

We not only have a social responsibility to take care of these children, but it's a command from the Lord.

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves... Defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9

children at the Mathare Valley slum project

It's my job. I want to be a loud voice for these children who are unable to speak for themselves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

my heart is full

I had the incredible privilege today of meeting Vicky Mwikali, the 9 year-old girl that I sponsor through Compassion International. We have written letters back and forth for the last 3 and a half years, but I never dreamed that I would be able to meet her. I wish I could explain how nervous I was when we drove up... I spotted her in the crowd of children, bent down, and asked, "Vicky?" and she gave me a BIG hug! It was an instant bond. One of the Compassion social workers from her project (Monicah) came with her, so she introduced herself and told me how excited Vicky had been to be here today. I felt completely overwhelmed. Here's a picture right after we met...

We all headed into the Nairobi Safari Walk, which is basically a zoo, except that you can get much closer to the animals here! She held my hand the entire time, and we had so much fun. Vicky is very shy, and doesn't speak much English, but she understood most of what I said and asked, so it all worked out. When either of us got confused, Monicah was right there to translate. Monicah let me know that Vicky's mom sent her blessing, and she even showed me some pictures of Vicky's house on her camera! We took a LOT of pictures today.

While I talked to Monicah, she explained Vicky's home situation. Her father died not long after she was born, and she lives at home with her mother. She has four brothers and sisters still living, and one of her brothers died in December. She lives in a very rural area, and was very malnutritioned when she entered the Compassion program. Monicah explained that Vicky technically lives too far to be a part of the program, but they saw what great need she had and registered her anyway. Vicky lives 7km from the project, and she walks an hour and a half to get there every Saturday. She has a few friends that she walks with, but I can't imagine what that must be like.

Vicky is in class 3 at school, and Monicah said that she has progressed very well since she entered the program. She is much healthier, and her mom now has a job that is helping to provide for them. With some of the money they have received as birthday and Christmas gifts, they have been able to purchase mattresses for their home, goats, clothes, and other important items. Through Compassion, her mother has been able to start her own vegetable kiosk to sell some of what they grow. Monicah said that if it weren't for Compassion, she couldn't imagine Vicky's situation.

I'm writing this to you because YOU can make the difference in the life of a child. Sponsoring a child through Compassion helps to Release Children from Poverty in Jesus' name. Vicky is slowly but surely being released from poverty, and she wants to be a nurse when she grows up. Just $38 a month has changed her life, and it honestly has nothing to do with me. Compared to what we spend frivolously on so much, this amount is hardly anything.

Writing letters back and forth is a huge part of the success of Compassion, and many children are encouraged and inspired by their sponsors. There are so many who don't hear how beautiful they are or that they are loved by anyone, including their parents, so their sponsors are very important to them. It was an incredible privilege to meet and spend time with Vicky today, and to take her some gifts for her and her mom.


I could honestly keep writing for what seems like forever, but I still have a lot more to process. Please let me know if you have any questions about Compassion. I would love to share more with you. My heart is so very full after today, but I realize the great responsibility we have to take care of these children. Won't you consider being a part of what God is doing?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Compassion

Most of you know that I'm headed to Kenya next week with a team from Student Life. We are going through Compassion International, and have the incredible opportunity to visit several of their Child Development Programs and meet the team of Leadership Development Program students who will travel with us this summer.

"Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus' Name."

This is the mission of Compassion, and I believe wholeheartedly in what they do. I have sponsored a little girl named Vicky for the last four and a half years. She is eight years old and and comes from a large family. We write letters back and forth, and she draws pictures to send in the mail. She loves to talk about her family, games she likes to play, and talks about Jesus. It is such an exciting day when I open up the mailbox to read a letter that she has sent.

For just $38 a month, you can make a difference in the life of a child. I was able to spend last summer with Maureen (who I wrote about in this post) and gained a greater understanding of how much Compassion impacts these children. Compassion not only helps children, it helps their families as well.

While we are in Kenya, I'm going to be able to meet Vicky! I'm packing a backpack of fun things for her this weekend to give to her once we get there. I honestly don't even know how to prepare for this moment, but I can tell you that I feel so humbled and excited.

Here's where you come in... if you're interested in sponsoring a child from Kenya, please let me know ASAP! If you act quickly, you can send me a backpack for your child, and I can make sure it gets to him or her. If you're interested in a child from another country, let me know that as well. I can get you the information that you need.

I hope that you'll pray about making a difference in the life of a child. You can be a part of releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name... one child at a time.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Where I Come From

People ask me all the time where I'm from. Each time, I hesitate and I usually throw out, "Well, I grew up in Orlando, Florida." I've lived a lot of different places, and my parents have moved around as well, so it's a hard question to answer.

Here's where I've lived:

Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Pineville, Louisiana
Orlando, Florida
Dallas, Texas
Colleyville, Texas
Austin, Texas
New Orleans, Louisiana
Birmingham, Alabama

Tonight, I'm going to my Louisiana roots (my dad's family is from the boot) and my last year in New Orleans, and I cooked up some Crawfish Corn Bisque. It's SO good and SO easy. I promise, this isn't turning into a recipe blog, but I do love to cook.
Here's the recipe:
2 cans cream of potato soup
2 cans evaporated milk
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 t liquid shrimp/crab boil (you can find it by the fish at the grocery store - I use Zatarain's brand)
1 t Tony Chachere's cajun seasoning 
2 pkgs.(12-oz.) frozen crawfish tails, thawed
3 green onions, chopped

Mix all together and heat slowly until warm. Serve over rice to stretch.

When I'm making this for myself, I half the recipe. Tonight, I didn't have any creamed corn, so I just used a can of kernel corn. It's delicious! If you don't already have Tony Chachere's seasoning in your pantry, you have to get it... I use it all the time when I'm cooking. It's a great seasoning! 


If you make it, let me know what you think! You'll feel like you're in New Orleans... I promise!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Oh, Football.

I'm so sad that when today is over, it's officially the end of football season. I spent most of my Saturdays last fall watching college football, and I wouldn't change a thing. I love the SEC in general, and the Florida Gators in particular. I'm SO excited about our new coach, and the fact that we have a great new recruiting class. For now, I will spend my Saturdays wishing for the fall, in anticipation of great football and my favorite time of year.

Of course I know that today is THE day for football, but I just don't care that much. I love the Cowboys, but we desperately needs some help. It was a tragic moment when my roommate Alyssa (who also loves the Cowboys) realized that we're not in the right "region" to get Cowboys games every week. Who cares about the Falcons and the Titans?? Not us.

Anyway, I'm going to hang out with some of my SL friends this afternoon and watch the game, and my contribution is one of my favorite game-day snacks (or any-day snacks for that matter).... Cowboy Caviar!

Here's the recipe:
2 cans of black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can of whole kernel corn
1 can of ro-tel
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2-3 diced avocados

Dressing:
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
4 T lime juice
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Mix all of the canned and chopped ingredients together (except avocado) and add mixed dressing. Chill. Before serving, add avocado.



Let me tell you... this stuff is GOOD and addictive. It's a great party food, and it's fairly healthy - lots of fresh ingredients.

If you give it a try, let me know what you think!

As for today, GO PACKERS! You can't be a good Cowboys fan and root for the Steelers (as Alyssa informed me).